An Impressive Display From Bryce Harper

There’s a perception that because I try to pull the cover off the exaggerations in the legend of Bryce Harper that I want him to fail and enter the netherworld of “can’t miss” first overall picks who missed.

That list is long and, in some cases, quite sad.

Some were ruined by self-inflicted and team abuse: David Clyde.

Others got injured in off-field mishaps: Brien Taylor.

Many were all tools, no substance: Matt Anderson; Shawn Abner.

A few were taken for ancillary reasons: Steve Chilcott; Matt Bush.

I don’t want Harper to fail. But I don’t want to hear these ridiculous stories about his exploits to put him in the superhuman category at 19-years-old. The desperation to make him something he’s not can lay the foundation for a stalled or ruined career.

In his weeklong tenure in the big leagues, Harper has shown his massive talents with a deadly strong and accurate throwing arm; plate discipline; skillful defense at a position—leftfield—he’s rarely played; plus speed and aggressiveness. He’s also shown teenage arrogance (flipping off his helmet on his first big league hit) and stupidity (playing softball in a Washington DC park).

But last night, when Phillies’ pitcher Cole Hamels drilled him in the back with a fastball, Harper was cool and ruthless.

Hamels inexplicably said he was throwing at Harper—ESPN Story.

Of course he was throwing at him, but only an idiot says so after the fact. Now he’s going get suspended. Deservedly so.

Jordan Zimmerman retaliated by hitting Hamels, but the true retaliation came from Harper in the immediate aftermath of his plunking.

In what was quite possibly the most impressive thing that I’ve seen Harper do—more impressive, in fact, than the hitting, fielding, running and throwing—was a display of maturity that precludes the helmet-flip and softball participation.

After reaching first on the 2-out HBP, Harper went to third on a Jayson Werth single; Hamels tried to pick Werth off and with a quickness of thinking, anticipation and baseball instincts unheard of in veterans let alone a 19-year-old, Harper didn’t hesitate in taking off for home. He stole it relatively easily.

In addition to that, given Harper’s reputation, one would’ve expected him to glare at Hamels or mutter to himself; one would’ve expected him to flaunt his steal of home and victory in the war of machismo.

But he did none of the above.

He did his job and his silence and professionalism was explosive in its impact. The HBP was an attempt to get a rise out of the rookie and he answered by not answering in the way Hamels wanted. He answered on the field. It was a message to the rest of the league that he’s going to shove it to those who push him and do it without the histrionics that made Harper a YouTube sensation for his attitude, tantrums and ejections.

Hamels welcomed him to the big leagues.

Harper followed it up by proving he belongs.

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  1. #1 by Mike Luna on May 7, 2012 - 3:36 pm

    I really don’t understand why Hamels threw at him in the first place.

    There were those stupid comments about “taking guys out” or whatever a while back. There was also the silly helmet flip from last week. None of that really has anything to do with Hamels, though.

    I haven’t read anything where Harper said that he had anything out for the Phillies or that he planned to take Hamels deep or anything. Harper is kind of a dumb jock, but I don’t see where he’s done anything that Hamels should specifically be upset about.

    If he wanted to send a message, what exactly was the message supposed to be? Don’t say dumb things in interviews?

    I only wish that the Phillies had lost 1-0 after Harper stole home. That would’ve been the cherry on top of a really pointless sundae.

    • #2 by admin on May 7, 2012 - 6:56 pm

      It was a “you’re in the big leagues now, kid and you’d better know your place”. It used to go on all the time as a rite of passage, was accepted and encouraged. He didn’t throw at his head and Harper does have a big mouth and (apparently justifiably) high opinion of himself, so I have no issue with it. But if you’re gonna do it, you don’t announce what you did to the press after the fact.

      • #3 by Mike Luna on May 7, 2012 - 9:14 pm

        But, again, Harper didn’t do anything specifically to Hamels. If he’d pimped a homerun or run his mouth to the media, that would be one thing.

        What Hamels did wasn’t intimidating. It didn’t send a message of any kind. All it accomplished was adding an earned run to his season total and potentially costing his team the game. (Granted, they won 9-1, but it was 0-0 when Harper stole home.)

        If Harper was going to be greeted to the Big Leagues, shouldn’t it have been done the day before? Or the day before that? Or a week earlier when Harper arrived?

        Hamels was just throwing at a guy for the sake of throwing at him. It was completely senseless.

      • #4 by admin on May 7, 2012 - 10:57 pm

        Exactly. It was meant to be intimidating and send a message and Harper answered back perfectly. Now the rest of baseball knows that Harper doesn’t get angry and won’t react like a spoiled brat and will stick it to them if they put him on base, so it’s unlikely to happen again.
        There’s no conspiracy among the veteran players in baseball to handle the rookie star; it’s up to them. Hamels decided on his own to do this, it didn’t work and now he looks like a fool.
        These things take care of themselves.

  2. #5 by Jeff on May 7, 2012 - 6:51 pm

    Harper sold me with that move too. I want him to do well. He’s the sort of spark you wish your team had ninefold.

    Also, Hamels indeed DOES cement himself as a truly clueless idiot. My goodness, he oughta be plunked for running his mouth and telling on himself.

    • #6 by admin on May 7, 2012 - 6:57 pm

      What precisely do his Phillies’ teammates think about Hamels putting a target on their backs with his stupidity? Not stupid for doing it, but stupid for saying he did it.

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